Fresno State is going dancing. Meanwhile, the regular season Mountain West champion San Diego State Aztecs will have to sweat it out on selection Sunday.
Julien Lewis was 0-for-8 from the field with just one point when came up with a steal and pulled up for a three in transition. With shooter’s amnesia, he cashed it to give Fresno State a 64-62 lead with 1:36 remaining in the MW conference tournament championship Saturday. The Bulldogs would never relinquish that lead.
“They threw the ball to Malik Pope, and JT (Jahmel Taylor) was trying to front him,” Lewis said. “I just waited. He threw it, I just went out there and took the ball out from top of his head. And I was going to try to kick it up ahead to Marvelle Harris. But Trey Kell was backing up, he was back pedaling toward me. I said, I’m going to take this shot. So when I took the shot and it came out of my hand I knew it was good. I ran back. I’m like, man, that was unbelievable.”
SDSU jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead. Malik Pope seemed to set the tone with two threes and a thunderous dunk, singlehandedly outscoring the Bulldogs 12-11 in the early going. But Marvelle Harris and company would not be deterred, going blow-for-blow with the Aztecs.
Harris, the MW Player of the Year, led the way with 18 points. He hit a deep 3-pointer to end the first half, giving FSU its first lead, 39-36.
SDSU came back with a vengeance in the second half. A highlight worthy one-handed put-back slam by Pope seemed to swing back momentum back in the Aztecs’ favor. But, Fresno State matched their defense intensity and came up with big stops in crunch time, such as Lewis’ aforementioned steal.
Karachi Edo blocked Jeremy Hemsley with the shot clocked turned off, leading to two free throws by Lewis to make it a two-possession game, thus securing Fresno State’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2001.
“It was incredible,” Harris said. “Greatest feeling I’ve had in my whole basketball career.”
All-MW Tournament Team:
Marvelle Harris (FSU)
Karachi Edo (FSU)
Winston Shepard (SDSU)
Malik Pope (SDSU)
Trey Kell (SDSU)
Cameron Oliver (Nevada)
MW Tournament MVP:
Marvelle Harris – 17.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.7 steals per game
Collegian Sports Editor Emmett McCarthy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @emccarthy22.